Develop Responsible E-mail Campaigns
Few catalogers would dispute that e-mail marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods for communicating with customers. And in this day and age, it’s also one of the most hotly contested. Indeed, the e-mail channel is fraught with legal, technical and marketing challenges.
This article provides suggestions for keeping your e-mail program legal and ethical, and it offers tips on increasing the chances that your e-mails make it to your customers.
The Can Spam Act and You
In December, President Bush signed the legislation known as “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Market-ing Act of 2003” or Can Spam. The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, prohibits:
- false e-mail headers,
- deceptive subject lines,
- harvesting e-mail addresses via automatic or improper means (e.g., e-mail addresses listed on Web sites, “dictionary attacks”), and
- sending e-mails through open relays.
The law also mandates that commercial e-mails contain:
- a functioning return e-mail address that enables recipients to opt-out of future e-mails from the sender (sources listed in “For More Info” on pg. 38 can offer more specifics on this particular provision);
- the postal address of the sender (a P.O. box or mail drop won’t do); and
- an indication the message is an advertisement (as yet, there’s no requirement to use the word “Adv” or some derivative of it, although there may be in the future). For recipients who’ve opted in to get your e-mails, you need not denote the messages are commercial in nature.
The Act also requires compliance with certain marketing practices aimed at wireless e-mail accounts. And Congress has mandated that the Federal Trade Commission study the implications of a do-not-e-mail registry similar to the Do-Not-Call Registry.
As The Direct Marketing Association notes in its white paper on the Can Spam Act: “These requirements on commercial e-mail [do] not apply to ‘transactional or relationship’ e-mail messages, such as e-mails about account balances, memberships, subscriptions or other ongoing commercial relationships that are not primarily solicitations.” (To get a copy of the white paper, see “For More Info,” below.)